Three Pathways From Anger Dysregulation to Lower Social Status Among Chinese Boys

Hui Zhang, Charles Matthew Stapleton, Yeh Hsueh, Robert Cohen


During middle childhood, Chinese boys are particularly at risk to develop both externalizing (e.g., overt aggression) and internalizing behavioral problems (e.g., social withdrawal). A possible contributor to these problems is that boys cannot regulate their anger very well. Inability to manage anger may cause a particular social challenge for Chinese boys. Open expression of anger may be prohibited by prevailing Chinese cultural norms, because it emphasizes individuality over harmony. But anger is a socially disengaging emotion which works against social harmony. This situation requires Chinese boys to manage and express anger appropriately in social interactions. Based on the hierarchical model of social relationships and the three trends of human interactions, this study examined three pathways—aggression, social withdrawal, and sociability-leadership—that lead from Chinese boys’ anger dysregulation to their lower social status among peers at school. Participants of this study were 267 boys in Grades 3-6 from an elementary school in urban China. A self-report questionnaire of anger dysregulation was used to evaluate how often Chinese boys express their anger in dysregulated ways (e.g., attacking things or people). Peer nominations were used to measure children’s overt aggression (moving against peers), social withdrawal (moving away from peers), and sociability-leadership (moving toward peers). Social status was assessed by a sociometric measure which evaluates the degree to which children were liked by their classmates. Results showed that boys’ anger dysregulation was negatively associated with their social status. Moreover, aggression, social withdrawal, and social skills fully mediated this association. This study enriches our understanding of the mechanisms linking anger dysregulation to lower social status and provides practical implications to help Chinese boys improve social and emotional functioning in middle childhood.


Chinese culture; boys; anger dysregulation; aggression; sociability-leadership; social withdrawal; social status

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